Friday, December 28, 2007

Is This Also the Burial of Pakistan Democracy?

As is the Islamic custom Benazir Bhutto has been buried before nightfall. With her death being so late that meant today. The Bhutto family are as much martyrs for their country as the Neru/Ghandi family across the border in India.

But what next for Pakistan?

At the moment there are three days of national mourning for the ex-Prime Minster the first female to hold such a position in a Muslim state and plans are still going ahead to hold the elections on 8 January. It is the plan to remain on track with the process of politics that is causing some concern.

Ms Bhutto's rival Nawaz Sharif, who was also a former Prime Minister who was also in Rawalpindi yesterday has said his party will boycott the vote if it goes ahead on in 11 days time in response to the attack.

The violence that has erupted around Pakistan overnight has almost claimed as many lives (17) as the initial attack which claimed Bhutto and her supporters (at least 20). Unrest is something that is unlikely to subside swiftly and this could still be having an effect on elections not too far away.

Obviously the best result for the region is to return to as much normality as possible as swiftly as that is sensible. But for President Pervez Musharraf maintains on track thinking it convenient and opportune, when the leader of the largest opposition party has only just been laid to rest, would appear to many eyes to be potentially self-seeking, but also may backfire on him. It may lead to enhance the anti-Musharraf feeling, and also without someone who was willing to at least move forward with him, although in recent weeks that relationship was becoming strained, he will need the support of more and less influential individuals to advance along democratic lines, especially with Sharif effectively ruling himself out of the equation.

Democracy is not yet dead in Pakistan, but if people aren't careful in the next few days it may suffer fatally under an overhasty stampede, but could also die of neglect if not advanced appropriately. The life support machine is heavily reliant not just on the actions but the timing of those actions.

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